Rabbi Shot In Southern Russia In Possible Anti-Semitic Attack

A Chabad rabbi working in southern Russia was shot and seriously wounded in what police say may have been an anti-Semitic attack.

Unknown assailants shot Artur (Ovadia) Isakov, 40, on Wednesday night as he exited his car and headed into his home in Derbent, in the predominantly Muslim Republic of Dagestan near Chechnya, according to Jtimes.ru, a Russian-Jewish news site.

One bullet entered his right lung and his liver, according to the report. Isakov cried out for help after he was hit and was evacuated to a hospital at about 1 a.m. RIA Novosti, the Russian news agency, reported that he has been put on an artificial respirator and is in intensive care.

Police said they are considering “religious motivations” but are exploring all leads.

Ramazan Abdulatipov, the acting president of Dagestan, released a statement blaming “extremists and terrorists [who] do not want a happy, normal life for us all.” He said, “Only ignorant people, enemies of Dagestan, are able to do this. Dagestan is outraged.”

Berel Lazar, Russia’s chief rabbi, has chartered a plane to transport Isakov to Israel as soon as his condition becomes stable enough to permit travel, according to Israel Radio.

In a statement, the European Jewish Congress expressed “deep concern and shock” following the shooting.

“We are of course aware of the growth of Islamist extremism in the region, and violence perpetrated by these groups, but we should reserve comment while we await the results of the police investigation,” said Serge Cwajgenbaum, the organization’s secretary-general.


Canadian Jewish News to Resume Print Edition

Three months after announcing its closure, the Canadian Jewish News said it would resume publishing its print edition on Aug. 1.

The paper said it would return with a slimmed-down staff and a new editor in chief, in addition to a higher price for subscribers, Canada’s National Post reported. It had received widespread support following its closure announcement in April and was able to finalize new advertising contracts and extend old ones.

Citing falling revenues, the Jewish News had said it would cease publishing a print edition after June 20. The paper laid off its 50 staff members but continued to put out an online edition.

“We’re very happy and we believe we’ve found the right methodologies to [continue the print edition] and we’re looking forward to publishing at the beginning of August,” Canadian Jewish News President Donald Carr told the National Post. “We will do what we’re supposed to do and demonstrate the independence of the paper and its commitment to bringing news and commentary to the public.”


EU Guidelines

Israeli Economics Minister Naftali Bennett samples halvah at a factory in Ariel, a Jewish community located over the Green Line.  (Assaf Shilo/Israel Sun/Flash 90/JTA)

Israeli Economics Minister Naftali Bennett samples halvah at a factory in Ariel, a Jewish community located over the Green Line.
(Assaf Shilo/Israel Sun/Flash 90/JTA)

While new European Union guidelines directed at Israel’s settlement activity caused an uproar in Israel and consternation among many of its supporters, the rules’ real power seems for now to be largely symbolic.

But the rules, which would ban EU funding to Israeli institutions in the West Bank, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem beginning Jan. 1, seemed to send a different message, depending where the recipient was on the political spectrum. Those on the right saw them as a thumb on the scales for the Palestinians in peace talks with Israel. Those on the left said it was an early taste of what Israel is in for if in the absence of a negotiated settlement.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netan-yahu immediately denounced the rules, when it was clear their release was imminent. “We will not accept any external edicts on our borders,” he said, and advised the Europeans to focus on ending Syria’s civil war or handling Iran. “These problems are little more urgent,” he said.

To Netanyahu’s right, Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel should respond to the EU with facts on the ground in the West Bank. “More kids, more trees, more vineyards, more homes — that is the real answer to the EU,” he told settlers at a West Bank outpost.

But two key centrists in Netan-yahu’s coalition said Israel can’t afford to ignore EU criticism. Even as Minister of Finance Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni denounced Europe’s “miserable directive,” coming just as Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to restart peace talks (“They will encourage nothing but delay in the resumption of peace negotiations,” Lapid wrote in The New York Times), both made it clear that Israel cannot continue with the status quo in the territories.

“The decision is a jolting wake-up call,” said Livni, who leads Israel’s peace negotiations with the Palestinians. “It saddens me that we have reached this point, but I hope that it will motivate all those who think we can live with the current stalemate.”

“Time is not in our favor,” Lapid said, “and every day that Israel is not in peace negotiations is a day that our international standing is further damaged.”

Bibi taken by surprise?
After the EU announced on July 16 that it would release the guidelines on July 19, Netanyahu went to work lobbying the Europeans to change their mind. But the prime minister’s initial response suggests that he was blindsided, Michael Koplow, program director of the Israel Institute, said.

“Initially, the way he reacted seemed like he was taken by surprise, which was a surprise to me. The Europeans have been clear, saying this was coming down the road. They’ve been drafting this move for a while.”

The guidelines codify an agreement reached by EU last December, stating that “all agreements between the State of Israel and the EU must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967.”

It is not an economic boycott, and it doesn’t affect agreements between Israel and the 28 EU member states. “It largely strengthens existing EU rules and does not affect trade or the private sector,” Lapid wrote in the Times.

The text, which applies to “grants, prizes and financial instruments funded by the EU,” restricts the support to “Israeli entities having their place of establishment within Israel’s pre-1967 borders.”

But it also requires Israel to sign a clause in financial contracts saying that saying that the settlements are not party of Israel.

Responding to the furor, Catherine Ashton, the EU’s top diplomat, reiterated the EU’s “long-held position that bilateral agreements with Israel do not cover the territory that came under Israel’s administration in June 1967.”

“In no way will this prejudge the outcome of peace negotiations bet-ween Israelis and Palestinians,” she said in a statement. “The EU … fully supports Secretary Kerry’s intense efforts to restart negotiations at a particularly delicate stage.”

Reaction in Washington
In Washington, the bipartisan Congressional Israel Allies Caucus wrote to Ashton expressing their “deep concern,” over the guidelines.

“The new guidelines will only serve as a disincentive for the Palestinian Authority to engage in serious final status negotiations,” wrote the caucus, whose leaders include Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Trent Franks, (R-Ariz.), and Brad Sherman (D-Calif.). “The cause of peace is not advanced by the EU placing blame for lack of progress solely on Israel’s shoulders. This is simply not the case.”

Writing on the Weekly Standard blog, Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, echoed the congress members.

“EU hostility to the West Bank settlements is not new, but this formulation is remarkable,” he wrote. “The stumbling block to negotiations right now is the Palestinian refusal to come to the table. How does this punitive measure against Israel motivate Mahmoud Abbas to start talking? Does it not in fact signal him to keep staying away, only to see the EU hit Israel harder and harder?”

Abrams wrote that by including the Golan in the same category as the West Bank, the Europeans were saying the Palestinian Authority and the Syrian government were equivalent as potential negotiating partners. David Harris of the American Jewish Committee made the same point in his denunciation of the guidelines.

“And, when the EU refers to the Golan Heights, does Brussels know something about a peace partner in Damascus today that the rest of us may have missed, amidst the widespread carnage there that has resulted in more than 100,000 fatalities to date?” he wrote in a statement, adding,

“The EU ought to recognize what should be obvious, namely, that Palestinian recalcitrance, not settlements, has been, and remains, the foremost obstacle to peace.”

Koplow said while that may be true, the truth isn’t doing Israel any good. In his blog, Ottomans and Zionists, Koplow wrote:

“The Israeli government and outside observers can rage all day that settlements are not the primary cause of the conflict, and there is a large measure of truth to this, but …Israel is suffering because much of the world believes that the settlements are indeed the main problem and will not be convinced otherwise. For better or worse, Israel has to acknowledge that this is the reality.”

Since the guidelines don’t go into effect until Jan. 1, Israel has until then to make them moot, Danielle Spiegel Feld, senior associate for the Israel Policy Forum, wrote on its website.

“If the Israelis and Palestinians manage to make progress on their own between now and [Jan. 1], it will be far more difficult for the EU to justify imposing the type of external intervention in the conflict that the new guidelines represent. Moreover, if the U.S. believes real progress is underway, it will have a significant incentive to lobby against the EU’s meddlesome interventions on Israel’s behalf, “she wrote.

The guidelines have no real teeth — at least for now, Koplow said. “Until the EU does something to affect trade relations, this is largely symbolic,” Koplow said.

Europe is Israel’s largest trading partner, with $36.6 billion in trade in 2012, according to the Export Institute.

So the guidelines are a “harbinger of things to come if Israel doesn’t alleviate Europe’s concerns about its settlements,” he said.

Cloud Of Secrecy

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (left), pictured here with Secretary of State John Kerry, is worried about the creation of an Iranian-sponsored terrorist entity in the West Bank. (State Department photo/ Public Domain)

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (left), pictured here with Secretary of State John Kerry, is worried about the creation of an Iranian-sponsored terrorist entity in the West Bank.
(State Department photo/ Public Domain)

We don’t know.

That’s the operative phrase of the new round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks announced Friday and ostensibly set to begin in the coming days in Washington.

We don’t know their parameters, or if Israel will freeze settlements, release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners or agree to negotiate based on its pre-1967 borders.

We don’t know whether the Palestinian Authority has agreed to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. We don’t know how long Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will hold off on taking Israel to the International Criminal Court.

Most of all, we don’t know whether they’ll lead anywhere.

The talks, according to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, will last six to nine months with the intended outcome of a two-state, final-status agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

For now they will involve the chief negotiators for both sides: Saeb Erekat for the Palestinians, and Tzipi Livni and Isaac Molho for the Israelis.

The rest of the details, as Kerry said in his Friday announcement, are “speculation” and “conjecture.”

“The agreement is still in the process of being formalized, so we are absolutely not going to talk about any of the elements now,” Kerry said, adding that “the people who know the facts are not talking about them. The parties have agreed that I will be the only one making further comments about this.”

Kerry’s dogged efforts to simply bring both sides to the table — including six trips to the region this year — have been characterized by their secrecy. During his months of shuttling between Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman, Kerry has praised progress toward negotiations but kept details under wraps.

Following Kerry’s announcement on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he hopes the talks will prevent the establishment of a binational state in Israel and the creation of an Iranian-sponsored terrorist entity in the West Bank.

“These will not be easy negotiations, but we will enter into them with integrity, sincerity and the hope that this process will be conducted responsibly, seriously and substantively — and, I must say, at least in the opening stages, discreetly,” he told his Cabinet on Sunday. “Throughout this process, I will strongly uphold, as I already have, the security needs of the State of Israel and other vital interests.”

Signs of the rocky road ahead were evident almost immediately, with Palestinian officials denying Monday that any agreement had been reached to participate in final-status negotiations.

A Palestinian spokesperson said the upcoming meeting would only be a preliminary one; formal negotiations would take place only when Israel consented to freeze settlement expansion and negotiate based on the 1967 lines. Israeli ministers shot back that they would agree to none of those stipulations.

Israel is set to release 82 Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture ahead of the talks, but Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz told Israel Radio that “a settlement building freeze isn’t on the table.”

The biggest question that no one can answer, of course, is whether this round will succeed where so many others have failed. Israelis and Palestinians have been talking peace for more than 20 years, but the process has borne little fruit in the past decade.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (right), pictured here with Kerry, brought the 2010 talks to a halt by demanding an extension of settlement building freeze. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Flash90)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (right), pictured here with Kerry, brought the 2010 talks to a halt by demanding an extension of settlement building freeze.
(Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Flash90)

The last attempt at talks, in 2010, ended after three weeks when Israel rebuffed Abbas’ demand for the extension of a 10-month settlement building freeze.

Before that, lengthy negotiations in 2008 between then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas reportedly ended after Abbas rejected an Israeli proposal without presenting a counteroffer. Soon after, Olmert was indicted for corruption and resigned his post.

It’s far from clear whether the political will exists on either side to conclude a final-status agreement, which would likely include at least some evacuation of Israeli settlers from the West Bank and Palestinians abandoning claims for millions of refugees to return to Israel.

On the Palestinian side, Abbas has held power for eight years without elections and has no power in Gaza, which has been controlled by Hamas since 2006. Kerry has gained backing for the negotiations from the Arab League, but Hamas, deemed a terrorist group by Israel and the United States, has come out against the talks.

In Israel, Netanyahu supports the talks, but a majority of his coalition opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state. In January’s election, Jewish Home — a pro-settler party — won 12 of the Knesset’s 120 seats running on a platform of opposing a Palestinian state.

Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett, Israel’s economics minister, threatened Monday to vote against the coalition’s proposed budget unless Netanyahu advances a bill that would put any peace deal to a national referendum. Netanyahu said Sunday he would do that.

And in recent weeks, as Kerry was galvanizing support for the talks, prominent members of Netanyahu’s Likud Party — including Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon — came out against Palestinian statehood.

On Saturday, Danon said he trusts Netanyahu but opposes settlement evacuation or a release of Palestinian prisoners.

“We must not repeat the injustice of the past and uproot thousands of Jews from their homes,” Danon said in a statement. “I also hope that we learn from previous mistakes regarding the release of prisoners with blood on their hands. These murderers must not be released as an ‘act of good will’ or as a prize for returning to the negotiating table.”

Should Netanyahu’s coalition turn on him, the prime minister could count on support from across the aisle. Labor Party Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich, who leads the opposition, has said her party would support Netanyahu should a peace deal come to the table.

“I hope that Prime Minister Netanyahu, who declared loud and clear that he supports the two-state solution, will make the necessary decisions,” Yachimovich said, according to The Times of Israel. “We should not just settle for a renewal of negotiations but do everything possible to work toward real accords.”

Maccabiah Bar Mitzvah Ceremony Proves Games Are About More Than Sports

NEVE ILAN, Israel (JTA) — Luke Rosener removed his orange T-shirt, changed into a white dress shirt and alighted from a chartered bus.

The garb was a far cry from the uniform Rosener will wear while playing for the U.S. volleyball team at the Maccabiah Games, the 78-nation sports competition that began this week in Israel.

The attire was more befitting a religious ceremony — in this case, his bar mitzvah.

Rosener, 22, of Cupertino, Calif., had never had a bar mitzvah, owing to his family’s financial situation and his early struggles with dyslexia. But as part of the 1,200-member U.S. Maccabiah delegation, Rosener encountered a ready-made opportunity to become a bar mitzvah alongside scores of new friends also celebrating the traditional rite of passage.

That’s because Maccabi USA, the American branch of the international sports movement, brings participants to Israel a week before the competition for a mandatory program of touring and discussions rich in Jewish content. In recent years the program, known as Israel Connect, has featured a mass bar mitzvah ceremony for participants who never had one.

“There’s so much more to [the Maccabiah] than playing sports,” said Jeffrey Bukantz, Maccabi USA’s general chairman and a former fencing Olympian. “We really do consider it the flagship of the program. It’s to the point that Israel Connect is more important than the actual sports. The kids are really impacted by the program.”

On the lush grounds of a reception center in the hills west of Jerusalem, a mile beyond the Elvis Inn pub guarded by a white statue of the King, the delegation gathered in the setting sun Tuesday for the ceremony. The entry hall’s long red carpet was lined with red, white and blue balloons and round tables in the vast garden were stacked with wrapped presents.

The ceremony coincided with Tisha b’Av, the 25-hour fast commemorating the destruction of both ancient Temples — a day on which celebrations are frowned upon. But as he prepared to chant the Torah portion designated for the closing hours of many fast days, Daniel Greyber, the delegation’s official rabbi, offered a fresh perspective.

“The afternoon of Tisha b’Av is a time of rebuilding, of looking forward,” Greyber said. “The b’nai mitzvah ceremony connects us to the Jewish people — not only in this world at this time but for all of history. In that regard, it requires celebrating.”

Along with the U.S. team’s assistant rabbi, Noam Raucher, Greyber led the crowd in spirited singing. And he punctuated the Torah reading with references to group discussions he had led the previous day covering biblical events and their relevance today.

Dave Blackburn, a standout softball pitcher who has competed in six Maccabiah Games, recited the Birkat Hagomel traditionally recited by those who have escaped harm. In 2009, Blackburn was nearly killed in a car crash, an accident that claimed his right leg below the knee and broke 27 bones.

“I’ve lived to share this Maccabiah experience with you, my extended family,” Blackburn said from his wheelchair.

Greyber called the Maccabiah participants to the Torah in three groups, and as the last one ascended the podium, he called for attention.

“Everyone,” he said, “look at the miracle that is happening as the sun goes down over Jerusalem, as this group that has never been to Israel and never had a bar or bat mitzvah is having an aliyah for the first time.”

Then Blackburn’s nephew Landon stepped forward.

“My uncle,” he began, struggling through tears to get the words out, “is keeping me alive, and that’s all that matters.”

Landon Blackburn, a wrestler, said later that his uncle’s participation in the games is his most cherished aspect of the trip. His own father would not have permitted him to participate without his uncle’s influence, he said.

A native of La Porte, Ind., Landon, 18, said he grew up celebrating Jewish holidays, but as a rebellious child opted not to have a bar mitzvah.

“But all that did was make my life harder, that the weight of the world was on my shoulders,” he said. “I didn’t have anything to help me cope with the hardships of life.”

Having this bar mitzvah, Landon said, makes him feel “100 percent better about my outlook on life.”

The final blessing chanted, Greyber led the singing of “Siman Tov” as candies were tossed onto the podium and participants wiped tears. Members of the two rugby teams leapt from their front-row chairs and posed near the stone wall overlooking the hills. Some did a jig in the seating area.

Greyber offered another song, and then another. Tisha b’Av was just about over, but the celebration wasn’t. Athletes jumped onto the podium to pose with their rabbi, who offered one last thought to those milling about.

“We are blessed to be here together,” Greyber said. “I have no idea what great and amazing things will come from this moment, but I am sure that within you is the infinity of God’s goodness.”

Rosener emerged fulfilled.

“I was in the moment, surrounded by other people, saying the blessing. I felt complete,” he said. “Something was added that had been missing from my life.”

Read more coverage of the 19th Maccabiah here.

Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks To Resume


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stepping off a helicopter after flying from Amman, Jordan, to Ramallah, West Bank, to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abba, July 19, 2013. (State Department photo/ Public Domain)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stepping off a helicopter after flying from Amman, Jordan, to Ramallah, West Bank, to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abba, July 19, 2013. (State Department photo/ Public Domain)

Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations will resume, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced.

“The representatives of two proud people today have decided that the difficult road ahead is worth traveling,” Kerry said in the Jordanian capital of Amman on Friday, where he was on his sixth visit to the region since assuming his job in February.

Top negotiators from both sides — Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat — will meet next week in Washington to advance the talks, Bloomberg News reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will have “tough choices” to make as talks proceed, Kerry said.

The terms of the resumption of talks were not made clear. The Palestinians have demanded that negotiations be based on the pre-1967 lines; Israel has resisted such terms.

The Baltimore Jewish Times will have further analysis of this situation in the coming weeks.

Maccabiah Games Open With Record Number Of Athletes

JERUSALEM (JTA) — U.S. Olympian Aly Raisman lit the torch at the opening ceremony of the 19th Maccabiah Games, which features a record number of nearly 9,000 athletes.

Thursday night’s ceremony at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem featured pyrotechnics and performances with hundreds of dancers and popular Israeli singers, as well as electric violinist Miri Ben-Ari. American “X Factor” runner-up Carly Rose Sonenclar sang “Hallelujah” joined by many in the crowd of 30,000.


U.S. Olympic gymnast and gold medalist Aly Raisman lighting the torch during the opening ceremony of the 19th Maccabiah Games at Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium, July 19, 2013. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/JTA)

“After winning medals and winning achievement, go tour Israel. This is your country,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a welcoming speech that alternated between English and Hebrew. “I’ll tell you the truth. I hope you and your families decide after this visit to come and live here.”

Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres rose and applauded as Israel’s blue-and-white-clad delegation of 2,270 athletes entered the stadium. The 1,100-member U.S. contingent wore red, white and blue sweatsuits with white baseball caps.

President Obama greeted the athletes via video, referencing the “unshakeable bond” between Israel and the United States.

Athletes from a record 78 countries will participate in 42 sports, as well as Paralympic events. Some 150 athletes who participated in the recent Olympic Games will be competing in the Maccabiah, the quadrennial event known as the Jewish Olympics.

Former Israeli Olympians carried a large Israeli flag into the stadium, each accompanied by a participant in the special-needs events.

Amitzur Shapira, an Israeli athlete at the Munich Olympics, recited the Yizkor prayer of mourning in memory of the nine members of the Israeli delegation who were killed in the 1972 Summer Olympics and the four Australian athletes killed in the the 1997 Maccabiah bridge disaster.

Paralympics tennis gold medalist Noam Gershony, four-time windsurfing world championship winner Lee Korzits, former Israel national soccer team goalkeeper Nir Davidovich and Israeli judoka Arik Ze’evi carried the Maccabiah torch into the stadium. They passed it to Raisman, an Olympic gold medalist, who lit the Maccabiah flame.

Earlier in the day, Peres at a meeting in his Jerusalem office implored New York Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire, a coach for the Canadian Maccabiah basketball team, “to join the Israeli National Team and be a part of our country.”

Stoudemire, a one-time all-star, met with Peres to present the educational project he has launched to promote in Israel — learning science through sports.



How Big A Threat?


An Iranian military truck carries a long-range
Ghadr-F ballistic missile during the annual military
parade marking the Iraqi invasion in 1980.

A Pentagon report on the ballistic and cruise missile threat has raised concern with its assessment that “Iran could develop and test an [intercontinental ballistic missile] capable of reaching the United States by 2015.” But analysts caution that this conclusion omits crucial context about Iran’s missile.

The National Air and Space Intelligence Center released the report on July 10. It assesses the short-, medium- and long-range ballistic missile threat across the globe. Russia, China, North Korea, India, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are analyzed, as well as Iran, which is believed to be developing nuclear weapons.

“Iran has ambitious ballistic missile and space launch development programs, and continues to attempt to increase the range, lethality and accuracy of its ballistic missile force,” the report stated. “Iran is fielding increased numbers of theater ballistic missiles, improving its existing inventory, and is developing the technical capability to produce an ICBM.”

Anthony H. Cordesman, an analyst and scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that although Iran may test a missile two years from now, the report provides no information about when Iran will be able to deploy such a weapon — if ever.

“The fact that you can fly a missile a certain number of miles doesn’t tell you how well it will work or how lethal the warhead will be, none of which is dealt with in the study,” Cordesman said.

Nor does the report say when the missile will be available for deployment or what the Iranians will have to do to make it an effective weapon.

“Ballistic missiles are terrible to disseminate chemical and biological weapons,” he said. “Unless you design a warhead very carefully, it will hit the ground and a lot of the explosion will go into the air. It’s an expensive way to take out two city blocks.”

The report, the first of its kind since 2009, will contribute to the public debate on weapons proliferation, said Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ nuclear information project.

“It reveals a piece of the classified assessments,” he said, noting that the trend in recent years has been for the government to provide less and less unclassified information.

Kristensen said the report confirms that Iran is continuing to improve the range of its missiles. And while the date given, 2015, “is pretty close” to today, he said he’s heard that Iran was on its way to develop “something like an ICBM … for the last 15 years. What enables them to say that it’s that close?”

The gap between testing technology and having an operational system integrated into the military is wide, he said. And a particular technology cannot necessarily be repurposed.

“People say that since North Korea can launch a vehicle into space, they can hit the U.S. Not so.”

Iran has also fired a space launch vehicle.

While China has “the most active and diverse ballistic missile development program in the world,” Russia has the largest number of “nuclear warheads deployed on ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States” — 1,200, according to the report.

By treaty, neither the U.S. nor Russia has intermediate range weapons. Recent reports claimed that the new Russian Yars M missile violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). But the Pentagon report “very clearly shows” that not to be the case because the Yars M’s range puts it into the ICBM category, Kristensen said.

President Barack Obama’s call last month for a new round of nuclear arms-reduction talks with Russia sparked a partisan debate in this country, Kristensen said.

The largest number of ballistic missiles carrying nuclear warheads — 1,550 — is held by the United States.

David Holzel writes for JT’s sister publication, Washington Jewish Week.

Letter To The United Nations

16 July 2013


This morning, mortar fire shook the early quiet for the communities of Northern Israel. The fasting and prayers of thousands of Israelis commemorating the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av were interrupted by a barrage of mortar shells fired from Syria. At the same time, and in a grave violation of the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement, tanks, trucks and armored vehicles belonging to Syrian government forces entered the buffer zone.

The violence that has shaken Syria is sending shockwaves throughout the region and threatening to further destabilize the Middle East. For two years, Israelis on the northern border have lived with the chaos and uncertainty of a war that threatens to spill over into their backyard. It is only a matter of time before a rocket or mortar shot from Syria falls on an Israeli home.

Israel has thus far shown maximum restraint and issued numerous warnings through UNDOF. However, the Israeli government will not allow its citizens to be the ongoing victims of these attacks and will continue to exercise its right to self-defense, as appropriate, and take all necessary measures to protect its population.

I urge the Security Council to condemn the incident and the Syrian government’s grave violation of the Separation of Forces Agreement. I should be grateful if you would have this letter distributed as an official document of the Security Council. I wish to inform you that an identical letter has been sent to H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations. Allow me, Excellency, to renew to you the assurances of my highest consideration.

Yours truly,

Ron Prosor
Permanent Representative


Machzorim for Lund: A Ray of Hope

In last week’s article, I wrote about the “kippa walks” that have taken place in Malmö, Sweden to help combat the anti-Jewish sentiment in that city. The week before, you read about Maynard Gerber, the hazzan-mohel who performs numerous circumcisions for a grateful Muslim community. This week, you meet another unique individual who is making it his mission to reduce ethnic tensions in Sweden.

Check the internet for “Malmö Jews” and you’ll find an almost endless list of entries with titles like these:

  • “Jews leave Swedish city after sharp rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes”
  • “The disappearing Jews of Malmö”
  • “Jews flee Malmö as anti-semitism grows”

Much of the anti- Jewish activity in Sweden is fueled by a growing anti-Israel sentiment, which comes not only from the burgeoning Muslim immigrant population, but from liberal native Swedes. The situation came to a bizarre head last year, when Malmö’s then-mayor, Ilmar Reepalu, blamed the Jews’ support of Israel for the violence against them, and implied that they had been infiltrated by troublemakers from the far right. As American Jews, it’s almost impossible for us to comprehend the shadow that hangs over Jewish life in most other countries, particularly a country that is as famous for its liberalism as Sweden. But out of the fear and the suspicion comes a ray of hope from an unexpected source.

Machzorim For Lund - 7.14.2013

Siavosh Derakhti is a young Muslim student in Sweden. He is working to combat anti-Semitism.

Siavosh Derakhti is the son of Turkish-Azerbaijani parents who left Iran in search of a better life during that country’s war with Iraq. He is currently attending college, but it was while a student at Malmö’s Latinskola High School that he first became aware of the growing anti-Semitism in the city. He was shocked by the trend, and since his family had escaped a dictatorship, he felt strongly that something must be done. In researching holocaust education, he found that his school had never invited a survivor to speak to students, a fact that he blames for the prevalence of Holocaust denial and ignorance. Not receiving support from the school, he invited two Holocaust survivors to speak, even offering to drive them himself. He then proposed a trip Auschwitz, but drew little interest in the project from either students or administration.

Derakhti knew from personal experience that visiting a concentration camp site could be a life-changing experience. His father had taken him on separate trips to both Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz, and he knew that anyone who had seen the horrors first-hand could not ignore or deny them. He persevered in his efforts, and went directly to the education department to lobby for funding. His determination finally paid off when he took 27 students to Auschwitz; many of his classmates openly wept.

Since that initial success, Derakhti has continued working non-stop to promote understanding between cultures. Through his organization, Young Muslims Against Anti-Semitism, he travels across the country to teach, organize and build bridges of understanding. On November 8, 2012, Derakhti received the first Elsa Award from the Swedish Committee on Anti-Semitism. The Elsa Award, established by Committee member Henrik Frenkel in memory of his parents, was created to encourage young people to incorporate social media into the battle against Swedish anti-Semitism. The award bears the name of Frenkel’s first grandchild.

We know that throughout history many enemies have risen against the Jewish people. But we also know that often, in times of distress or persecution, help has arisen from completely unexpected sources; and often, it is because Jews have reached out to the greater community with ahavat chesed, a love of kindness that crosses cultural borders. I don’t know if there is any real connection between Cantor Gerber and Siavosh Derakhti, or if they have even heard of one another. But I truly believe that when a mohel circumcises Muslim babies, and a young Muslim braves scorn and ridicule to dispel hatred against Jews, then there is some small restoration of balance in the world, and God smiles.

View earlier articles:
Machzorim For Lund: The Power Of A Kippah>>
Machzorim For Lund: A Cantorial Odyssey>>
Machzorim For Lund: A Mohel For All Seasons>>